Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gospel or Jesus?

In my local church community we are looking at the book of Philippians which is one of my favorite of Paul's writings. One thing that comes through in this letter that he wrote is that he has joy in his life because of the great news (gospel) of Jesus Christ. He has joy because the people in Philippi journeyed with him in defending and living out the ways of Jesus.

In studying this I noticed that similar language is a re-emerging trend in Christian circles. I hear a lot of talk about the gospel and love for the gospel. One thing that struck me and, quite frankly, concerns me is that I hear of "love for the gospel" and "love for theology" more than I hear "love for Jesus".

I am quite sure the people talking this way are not saying they love a theology more than God so I want to propose this question for a chance for dialogue.

Is there a difference between "loving the gospel" and "loving Jesus". If so what is the difference? If not, why use the terminology that is ambiguous and potentially misleading?


Scott said...

Depends on how you define the Gospel. If the Gospel is merely Jesus saving us from our sins… then I do believe it is possible to love that and not Jesus. This is nothing new-since the fall people have loved the gifts of God all the while hating God himself.

However, if you define the Gospel as Paul does in Col. 1:15-23 – in which we see Jesus being described as the image of the invisible God, creator, ruler over all, reconciler, making peace through his blood on the cross, head of the church, inheritor of all, King, and supreme authority, well then I don’t believe you can separate love for the gospel and love for Christ. I believe it is two sides of the same coin.

The good news includes that fact that he has brought us into his Kingdom! Which involves his authority, sovereign rule, and dominion. I do not believe you can love these things and not love Christ. Just like you cannot love Christ and hate his Kingship.

I am not so sure if I agree with you regarding its ambiguity. I believe just saying I love Jesus (or God for that Matter) in our culture is just as ambiguous and potentially misleading. Ask a person who Jesus is and you will get a thousand different answers. Can we appropriately describe Jesus apart from the Gospel and Theology?

Ryan said...

In no particular order....
No, we cannot appropriately describe Jesus apart from theology or the real gospel.

I also agree the gospel defined is not ambiguous, but from my own experience the term is extremely ambiguous even in Christian circles. The non-Christian world and much of the Christian world cannot define the gospel appropriately so it is ambiguous in the larger cultural context.

Using your example from Col 1:15-23 (a beautiful description of the good news about Jesus) I agree that loving this truth usually implies a love for Jesus but it does not necessitate a love for Him.

SO why speak of a love for this gospel or this theology instead of a love for Jesus? Even if loving Jesus does not necessarily imply loving the real Jesus, isn't it more clear to the majority than "loving the gospel"?

Scott said...

This is where I would have to go to my theology, which I love (hahaha sorry had to), and look at your question in regards to the majority.

I would argue that for the very reason Christianity is the minority, is the same reason why the majority will never find the statement, "I love Jesus" clear.

Simply because in order for the clear truth of Jesus to be loved by the sinner, the Holy Spirit needs to come and enable it. If not, then the sinner will either flat out hate it or the sinner will change that truth to fit what they love.

A recent example of this is Elton John who recently said this about Jesus whom he loves.
"I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems." (False)

All this to be said, I agree that Christians need to define both the gospel and Jesus. It is not enough to just put out terms and leave them hanging in the air. My own thoughts are that this is the result of a Christian culture that has taught if you pray a prayer once in your life then you will get your "Get out of Hell" card and then go on with your life.

Markchop said...

There are many who claim to love Jesus but don't know Him and many who know their theology, which may be correct in theory but not in practice much like Pharisees who claimed to Love God yet didn't really know him. Today there are those who love their theology but forget about the God they are studying. As far as loving the gospel being separated from loving God... if you love the "good news" that He brings, that we are saved from our sins and adopted as sons as daughters of the Most High and brought into His Kingdom it would be a silly dichotomy to pit one against the other. It can't only be done when one or both (Gospel or God) are misunderstood.

Jesus Himself said He came to seek and save that which was lost. He actively pursues us like the Father in the tale of the prodigal son and his pharisaicalbrother. As far as Jesus saving us from our sins not being good news, I disagree. I think it's very good news! And of course it doesn't stop there He has saved us from Hell and from death itself saved us unto new life both now and forevermore!

Ryan said...

Scott- I agree that the "get out of hell" card is a short sited view of the good news of Jesus. It neglects the fact that this good news for our eternity is also good news for the present.

In regards to people not understanding unless the Holy Spirit enables.... does this logically lead to our saying that because the Holy Spirit must enable understanding then it really doesn't matter how it described or defined. Because only if the Holy Spirit enables (first?) then understanding can come?

Mark- 1. The best part of the good news is that we are saved from our sins even though we don't deserve it (So I think we all agree!)

2. Sadly, in the academic world of Religious Studies (which is a world that I enjoy and in which I belong), there are many who love theology and the gospel but don't love Jesus. It doesn't make sense and it shows that they don't actually understand it (which somewhat supports Scott's notion that they are not enabled by the Holy Spirit). I think we must also consider Jesus' words that spoke of very religious and theologically trained people who believed they would be in the kingdom of God and Jesus said, "Depart from me.... for I never knew you" (Matt 7:22-23).

Jon Chenot said...

(not responding to everything that is said in these comments, just some thoughts in response to the blog)

I'm not exactly sure who you are referring to when you mention people saying how much they love the Gospel, but in my experience the emphasis has been more on restoring it's centrality in our lives and ministries. I think that includes loving it, and loving Jesus. But it is the message of the Gospel that the church has been called and empowered to preach.

That said, Paul did say that it was Christ that he proclaimed. "Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me." (Col. 1:28-29)

Miss you man. Let's catch up soon. You to Scott

Ryan said...

Nice verse to bring in. It is one of my favorite verses and is what should motivate us.... to proclaim Christ.
I would also bring in every mention from Paul about wanting to "know Christ" to live all his life for Christ and in sharing in his sufferings.

As far as who I am referring to in this post mentioning a love for the gospel... It is my hope that this includes just what you are saying, "restoring the centrality of the gospel in our lives".

This leads to my point of loving JEsus. Wouldn't it be great if those who say they are falling in love with Jesus actually meant that they are also falling in love with the good news and actually trying to see that news restored to a central position in their lives?